Irish arms find raises fears of Real IRA activity

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The Independent Online

The discovery of an advanced Russian-made rocket launcher yesterday raised concerns that violent dissident republicans have established new supply routes to obtain dangerous new weaponry.

The discovery of an advanced Russian-made rocket launcher yesterday raised concerns that violent dissident republicans have established new supply routes to obtain dangerous new weaponry.

The arms find took place south of the border in the Irish Republic as republican and Unionist politicians in Belfast took part in more negotiations in an effort to make a political breakthrough.

The former US senator George Mitchell is to return to Belfast tomorrow with the hope of advancing the process further. Various parties met at Stormont yesterday, including Unionists and republicans.

The southern arms find, however, came as a sobering reminder that republican dissidents are intent on restarting the conflict. The rocket launcher is regarded as the property of the "Real IRA" which just over a year ago killed 28 people in the Omagh bombing. There was unconfirmed speculation that the launcher might have come from surplus weaponry left over from the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.

The weapon, described as an RPG-18 with Russian markings, is an improved version of the RPG-7 weapon, which was often used by the mainstream IRA in attacks on security force bases and vehicles. It turned up, with 36 detonators and other material, during a search of a farm at Gormanstown in Co Meath.

Garda Chief Superintendent Michael Finnegan said: "This is of concern to us. This particular type of weapon has not been seen here before."

Last Wednesday police recovered arms and an underground firing range in a bunker beneath an isolated farmyard. Seven men were charged with weapons offences.

Meanwhile, the High Court in Belfast heard a legal challenge to the former Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam's ruling in August that she did not believe the IRA ceasefire was disintegrating.

Judgment was reserved in the case, which was taken by Michelle Williamson, whose parents were killed in the 1993 IRA Shankill Road bomb.

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